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Cablegate: Akp's Istanbul Mayor to Stand for Re-Election

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0630 3581340
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231340Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8664
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU PRIORITY
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RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000630

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OSCE PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: AKP'S ISTANBUL MAYOR TO STAND FOR RE-ELECTION

1. On December 21 Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan
announced that Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP) will re-nominate Kadir Topbas, the current Mayor of the
Greater Istanbul Municipality, for a second five-year term.
He is expected to win re-election easily in the upcoming
nationwide local elections, scheduled for March 29. Earlier
this month, the Republican People's Party (CHP), which is
expected to be AKP's most formidable opponent in the local
elections, announced that its candidate would be Cem Kozlu, a
well-known businessman.
2. Istanbul is Turkey's largest city, with a population of
over 12 million. It consists of 39 districts, each with its
own mayor and district council. The district governments are
responsible for local affairs, while the Municipal Mayor and
Municipal Council are responsible for issues that affect the
city at large. In the 2004 local elections, Topbas received
43 percent of the votes, with the CHP candidate getting 26
percent and the remaining votes split among a variety of
minor parties. AKP also won 24 of Istanbul's then-existing
32 districts, with the CHP winning five, and the Motherland
Party (ANAP) three. (The secular and nominally leftist CHP
is the main opposition party in Parliament. ANAP was once a
major party on the Turkish right, but is now relegated to the
political margins.)
3. Topbas is well-liked, even by Municipal Council members
from opposition parties and voters who otherwise do not
support AKP. He is considered hard-working, and is
particularly appreciated for the improvements he has made to
highways and mass transit. However, he is not viewed as
having a strong personal political base -- PM Erdogan, who
was mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s and is still appreciated
for having implemented wide-ranging and substantial reforms,
is considered to be the real power in Istanbul politics.
4. To date, AKP has announced candidates in only five
high-profile cities (the other four being Konya, Kayseri,
Antalya, and Kocaeli), all of them the sitting mayors. The
nomination of these five indicates that AKP is, on the whole,
pleased with their performance. Per press reports, the
remainder of AKP's candidates will be announced by January 15.
5. Biographical Notes: Topbas, 63 years old, started his
career as a preacher in Edirne. He then turned to
architecture, earning a PhD in architectural history from
Istanbul University. Between 1994 and 1998 he served as an
advisor on architectural issues to then-Istanbul Mayor
Erdogan. In 1999, he was elected Mayor of the Beyoglu
District, running on the ticket of the Virtue Party, an AKP
predecessor. Kozlu, 62 years old, holds a B.A. from Denison
University, an MBA from Stanford, and a PhD in administrative
sciences from Bosphorus University. He has held senior
management positions with Coca Cola, Turkish Airlines, and
Proctor and Gamble, and is a trustee of Sabanci University,
Anadolu-Johns Hopkins Health Center, and Istanbul Modern Arts
Foundation. In the 1990s he was an ANAP member of
Parliament. He has published six books on business and
economics.
Oudkirk

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